Thursday, December 21, 2017

Guppies around Jo'burg

The first Guppy LoRaWAN devices have shipped to customers! We've got a few driving around with DM staff in Jo'burg. It's interesting to see how they are working...
4 x Guppies and 1 x Oyster in TG
We have 4 Guppies linked to Comsol. Comsol use Actility network servers. Actility report the position of the gateway that heard the device. Guppies don't have GPS - they're just LoRaWAN tags with accelerometers. So we're plotting these gateway positions on the map in TG, as reported by Actility.

The interesting thing is that all of the Guppies are at our office, shown by the Oyster (which has GPS) and the blue arrow. So the Guppy positions are all over the show - up to 14km away! So that's not particularly useful on this network. 

  1. If you were to put up your own gateways, at your depots for example, this could be very useful.
  2. When a network like Comsol gets more dense (densifies?), and the LoRaWAN localisation improves, it could be a lot more useful.

Flexi1 - Temp/RH sensor, and battery life

We recently connected one of the DM Temp/RH sensors to our garden Flexi1. It's matching our bullet to within 0.4 degrees C.

Our garden Flexi1 has run out of juice now, so let's look at the numbers:

  • Batteries: this device was setup with 4 x 1.5V Energizer Ultimates (LiFeS2 chemistry). 4 x Alkaline C Cells is a more common setup, and you'd expect about 1.6x more from a set of those.
  • Uploads: 2130 uploads were recorded. This one was uploading via GSM every 3 hours. That's 266 days. Comfortably over 1 year with 4 x C Cell Alkalines.
  • Samples: each read of the Soil Moisture Probe counts as a sample. Each read of the temp sensor also counts. They were reading every 30 min. 2 samples every 30 min is 96 per day. Which works out to the same 266 days of life.
  • GPS Fix attempts: it is setup to fix once per day. So we have 274 fixes, which took a total of 5932s. That's 22s per fix.
Next up is to do this on Sigfox and LoRaWAN - that will be the SensorData products.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Telematics Guru - where are we?

Here's a simple graphical answer to that question. This is a plot of every Telematics Guru device's current position. We're getting to some new territories.

Friday, December 15, 2017

SensorData LoRaWAN and SensorData Sigfox

Hours before the factory doors close for Christmas, two new products made it through the ovens:
They're both sensor platforms, with the obvious communication technology differences. Sensor interfaces include:
  • SDI12 - Agriculture sensors like soil moisture probes
  • I²C - Temperature, humidty, CO2, etc.
  • Digital inputs - 2 on LoRaWAN, 3 on Sigfox
  • Analogue inputs - 1 on LoRaWAN, 2 on Sigfox
  • Outputs - 3.3V and 12V boost outputs.
  • Optional GPS
Both are extremely low power devices, so multi year battery life is possible.

SensorData Sigfox in the pick and place machine. The pneumatic head is whizzing around

Partially populated SensorData LoRaWAN panels, waiting for some additional parts.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Using LoRaWAN in South Africa

How do I connect to LoRaWAN in South Africa?

LoRaWAN is getting a lot of attention. A common question from users of our devices is "how do I use LoRaWAN?"

It's interesting to compare this to Sigfox. They are masters of simplicity, branding and publicity. How do I use Sigfox? Step 1: buy a device. Step 2: speak to the SNO (Sigfox Network Operator - Sqwidnet in SA) and sign up. Step 3: link the device. Step 4: turn it on and use it. Ok, maybe Step 0 is to check that you have coverage, and ask the SNO some serious questions about coverage in your area, and outside of metro areas. This coverage comment applies to LoRaWAN too, but is more complex.

Right, how do I use LoRaWAN? To start with, you have a few options for networks:

  1. Use a public LoRaWAN operator and use their base stations
  2. Use a public LoRaWAN operator and extend their coverage with your own base stations.
  3. Use crowd sourced option like The Things Network. Chances are, you'll need to extend their coverage with your own base stations.
  4. Put down your own network software and base stations.

1. Public Operators

In SA, there are 2 public operators that I know of:
  1. FastNet - owned by Telkom. 
  2. Comsol
Based on our testing so far, both have decent metro coverage in Joburg. 

You'd need to make contact with them and sign up for a test account. Make sure you have coverage. Get a device, and link it to their backend. And get started.

2. Extend a public operator's coverage with your own base stations

This is an option with Comsol, but it's not free. There is a fee to add a base station to their network. You'll also still pay for the "airtime". You will get to use their Actility backend.

Other operators around the world do this too. I'm not sure about FastNet yet. Contact the operator and find out. 

You'll also need a base station. Read about that below. Then you can get a device and link it to the operators backend.

3. Crowd sourced network

The only example I know of for now is The Things Network. They run the network server infrastructure. The public connects base stations up to their network. Anyone can link devices to the network. And anyone can add base stations. It's free. There are paid plans too.

You may have coverage, if someone else is running a base station near you. If not, you'll need a base station and you'll link it to the network. Read about that below.

4. Your own network software and base stations

This isn't very practical for most users, but it is possible. Multi-tech offer some software that you can run on their gateway that does a stand-alone (single gateway) network server. I don't know enough about this to comment further. The use of multiple gateways makes this option more complex. Many public operators don't even do this, so it is probably complex and expensive for anything more than a single gateway.

Base stations

We have some experience with the Multi-tech Conduit. We have linked it to the The Things Network (option 3). And we have linked it to some public operators, by running their software image on the gateway.

Kerlink also offer network hardware. This is often used by the public operators to setup their own network.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

EzyTrack using TG's Asset Location Sharing

We have a way to "share" an asset's location from TG. This is great for sharing the location of an asset with a big audience, without them needing to login to the platform.

More details are here.

Our partners, EzyTrack in Zimbabwe, are tracking a house boat on a truck, and sharing the location with followers.

Click here to see it. You must set an expiry date on the sharing, so the link may not work in future.